Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Aging a Cigar

Escaparate Case at Casa de Montecristo

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about aged or vintage cigars.  There are many people who believe aging a cigar does impact the taste and then there are people who believe aging a cigar is nothing but hype.  I’ve had the pleasure of smoking what one would call an aged cigar and I did notice a significant difference in the taste.  A cigar, like fine wine, truly will get better with age. 

More often than not when speaking of premium cigar manufacturers, your cigar has already been aged naturally as a part of the process of creating the cigar.  This is why you can smoke most cigars immediately upon delivery. 

Occasionally, though, you might find a new cigar that has a very bitter taste.  It does not necessarily mean that the new cigar is bad; it just means that the production was rushed and the cigar wasn’t given enough time to age.  Unfortunately high demands for cigars sometimes forces manufacturers to release cigars sooner than they would like.  Then, on the other hand there are people out there that can smoke a cigar (one that most people think is pretty damn good as is) and know that it would only get better if it were aged for a year.  

So what does it mean to age a cigar?

In its most basic definition aging a cigar is continuing the fermentation process.  A fermentation process is absolutely necessary in the creation of your cigar and happens to every one of them before they are even sent to distributors.  Fermentation is simply the changing of starches into sugars; it’s more complex but that is the basic idea.  As the starches turn into sugar, impurities and ammonia are also released from the cigar.  To age a cigar one must maintain a constant temperature and humidity, 70/70 rule.  Humidity and heat inside the cigar force the different tobaccos in the cigar to “merry” and release oils.  This overall process leads to a mellowing and blending of flavors. 

Aging a cigar only makes a good cigar even better.  You cannot take a bad cigar, age it, and expect it to be good. Say for example, a Maduro cigar that has been colored or cooked to achieve the dark wrapper.  They do not age well because the techniques used to create them ruin the tobacco, thus making the aging process useless.   Larger ring gages are better suited for aging because when more tobacco is used the more complex the end result will be.     

How long to age a cigar is a matter of personal opinion.  There is a noticeable difference in the taste as early as two to three months.  From my research aging cigars for one year seems to be the most common time frame.  Again my research suggests trying your cigars every few months during their aging process.  The aging process does reach a plateau and then any time after that plateau the cigar no longer ages.  So by trying a cigar every few months you can be sure that you smoke an aged cigar an the optimal time and not waiting an extra year or few months for nothing.

Posted by Michele 

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